Duck and Cover, kids!!

Part of the soundtrack of my youth was the eerie blaring of air raid sirens being tested at precisely 10 am on the last Friday of every month. I was 4 when I first asked my mother what the disturbing noise was. “They’re sirens to warn us when Russian airplanes attack,” she answered vaguely, hustling me along the sidewalk to the commercial interview she was taking me to. At my wide-eyed look she assured me, “It’s just a test.”

A month later the same sound sent me outside the house in shivers of fear, scanning the skies for planes (always the reporter), and any bombs they might be dropping. It was only then that my mother thought to explain that the tests happened every month at the same time. Young Reporter Claudia demanded clarification of Exactly When they went off every month, and never forgot it.

I distinctly remember the sounds of the unsynchronized sirens whirring to life – each just a fraction of a second off from the other – and their high-pitched oscillating tones warning of danger. When the test was over and the sirens finally stopped, their wailing echoed for a few lingering moments over the San Fernando Valley. Thinking about the keening, undulating sound long enough begins to put a clench in my jaw and stomach.

Part of the curriculum in the Los Angeles Unified School District in the 1950s, 60s and 70s was repeating the Duck and Cover drills we learned in kindergarten from cheerful films featuring catchy jingles, Bert the cartoon turtle, and calm, well-dressed white children. The films spoke confidently and repeatedly of WHEN The Bomb would drop – not if. 9 months a year for 13 years every child attending school in Los Angeles was vigilant for the inevitable, inescapable flash of our doom, and as air raid sirens howled above us we learned to cower under the magical safety of a laminated Formica desk.  (Link to Duck and Cover propaganda film)

As the sirens warned of impending doom the teachers turned off the lights and closed the blinds, and we students would kneel under our desks on the linoleum floor, our fingers laced behind our necks, forearms over our ears, and elbows shielding our faces. We were told to keep our eyes shut, and our faces hidden in our clothes.

While we crouched with hidden faces, the siren’s mournful monthly tune ended and became nothing but a discordant echo over cheaply built post-war housing. We waited until we heard a long bell being wrung by Mrs. Hale, our Principal, signifying the ‘All Clear’. It was during one of those drills that I first felt the suffocating quicksand of claustrophobia.

The exercise ended with the entire school huddled under our desks, pretending a bomb would explode near us. The bell would ring – and Scene! We would return to our studies, the subtext of the ritual was that we had all just died.

Here’s the unvarnished truth about Duck and Cover: Nobody ever gave us instructions on what we should do *after* the bomb dropped. There was never any talk of what to do when we were done ducking and covering, no warnings about food or water or radiation poisoning. We didn’t even have instructions to wait for instructions.

The inference was that if we ever heard the Russian planes overhead everything was over. ‘Kiss your ass goodbye’ was a phrase commonly used, and most people figured ‘They’ll never try it, and if they do? We’re all dead, but they are, too.’

The drill went on year after year – long past the point of being of any use to the children repeating it – until it became normalized and just more Cold War theater

Whether or not the adults around us would acknowledge it, their unconscious behavior affected how we reacted – we took our cues from them. They knew there was no surviving a direct hit & we picked up their signals.

We were told to kneel and patiently await our fate when we heard the sounds of air raid sirens. Deep inside all of us knew that if the missiles actually flew the lights and the shades and the command to Duck and Cover were nothing more than busy work to fill the time until we were incinerated in a flash.

***

At 6 am on February 9, 1971, the Russians finally attacked. I awoke to the sound of air raid sirens and explosions that were so big it moved the ground beneath me. I heard shouting, and the ground shook even harder – the earth itself was making a grinding noise as books and games flew off of my shelves, raining down on me. Instinctively I hid my face as I sat up in bed. Abruptly the shaking stopped, but the sirens went on. I was in shock as my father hollered “EARTHQUAKE!!! Get out of the house!!” I had no idea what he was shouting to me.

In all their preparations for nuclear war it had never occurred to any of the adults to mention earthquakes to the California kids living on the San Andreas fault. No one thought to tell us the sirens could be used for emergencies other than nuclear war. I mistook a 6.6 quake for World War 3, and awoke certain I was dying in a mushroom cloud. The heaving ground and exploding transformers only served to underline that mistaken notion that the world was coming to an end. It’s not the kind of thing you forget.

It puzzled me as I grew older how so many of my classmates relegated the jolly propaganda films that promised a terrifying death via radiation to the farthest corners of their minds. By the 1980s the drills had ceased, and most folks seemed to forget what the sirens were – they became just another background noise people ignored. Almost no-one noticed when the Los Angeles Civil Air Defense sirens were permanently silenced in 1986.

 

Duck and Cover 1

 

 

I don’t envy anyone with young children right now, because they’re going to be freaked out by what happened in Hawaii – how can they not? It’s utterly fucked up, and in the days to come they’ll be exposed to over-stressed adults and videos of panic and terror. Hopefully they’ll also see clips of parents trying to protect their children, (the video of the father putting his crying children into the storm drain in which he cannot fit is heartbreaking – but also a moment of the purest love and sacrifice) and there will be adults around them who are calm and reassuring.

Keep in mind that children already have their own version of Duck and Cover when they practice mass casualty shooting drills every month. There are seniors graduating in June of 2018 who have been practicing this horror-show drill their whole lives, just like I practiced waiting for the bomb to drop. The heartbreaking thing is that some of these students, and a few of their teachers, won’t get to see graduation day because their lives will be cut short in a flash from the muzzle of a gun. The added burden of the threat of global thermonuclear war between two madmen seems especially cruel.

None of it’s fair, or particularly sane, but it’s where we are as a country right now. This is who we are.

For the moment we are at the mercy of an aggressive, ignorant, rageaholic narcissist who suffers delusions of grandeur, likely has dementia, and is itching to use nuclear weapons. For the moment.

On the bright side: After a few years in this pressure cooker of lunacy and danger we’re bound to have some really good art and music come out of it –  if we can pull together and #Resist long enough to outlast the bastard.

 

99 Red Balloons

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Bullshit Positive Affirmations

Oh bullshit. I’m so tired of that trope and the whole notion that any of us is wholly responsible for our success. It’s classist and ignores the collective knowledge that mankind has gained off of the backs of others. It rejects the notion of role models, mentors and teachers and utterly fails to consider the opportunities afforded to those who are economically and racially privileged.

Yes, it’s that time of year. The New Year seems to encourage an avalanche of Bullshit Positive Affirmations shared on Facebook. BPAs are the annoying things people post and say that are supposed to encourage you to be the best person you can be. The illogicality of them frustrates me. I’m not sure if people actually believe this magical thinking, or they just think they should believe it.

 

BPA 3

 

No. No, it’s not.

That is embracing the ridiculous notion that everything is within our control.

That’s saying that people born into poverty choose to stay that way if they are unable to break the cycle. That’s saying children in marginal schools could have a better education if only they tried harder. It’s saying that the children of privilege don’t have 2 legs up on everyone else when it comes to college and student loans.

Then there are the things that happen when we’re adults. Sometimes unexpected shitty things happen to us out of the blue. Sometimes a spouse leaves and takes all the money. Sometimes the stock market crashes because people you have no control over sold unsound financial investments and it wipes out your 401K. Sometimes you find yourself unemployed and unemployable when your job has been outsourced. Sometimes you get sick.

Life is not a static arrangement of events that can be planned. Life is messy and often catches you unaware.

 

BPA 17

 

I swear I am not making this up.

Someone actually posted this piece of cruelty to their timeline on New Year’s Day. I suppose they thought it was inspiring. Instead, it just sounds like they’ve been lucky enough not to have had something really bad happen to them.

Let’s see how his proclamation holds up, shall we?

“No more whiners. If you have cancer it’s because you let it get that way.”

“No more whiners. If you’re depressed it’s because you let it get that way.”

“No more whiners. If your company eliminates your department it’s because you let it get that way.”

“No more whiners. If you were hit by a drunk driver it’s because you let it get that way.

Oh, I could do this all day, but you get the idea.

 

BPA 2

 

Really? So I can be an astronaut? What about run a 4 minute mile or be the President? I can conceive being a trillionaire, are you saying that’s possible? It’d be nice to be a supermodel. I’d sure like to win a gold medal in swimming.

The problem is, no matter how much I can conceive or believe, those things aren’t going to happen. I could do everything possible to achieve any of those goals – everything possible – but none of them will happen.

That’s because there are things we can’t do. I know it’s hard for the snowflake generation (I’m looking at YOU boomers) to hear that, but it’s true. Not all of us are exceptional and there are limits to what we can do and it’s time we accepted that fact.

 

BPA 1

 

I hate this one most of all.

It’s especially galling to those of us with depression. Oh – I could just wish myself better? I can choose whether I have this disease or not? Why didn’t you say so! That really would have saved me a lot of trouble had somebody told me sooner. I feel just like Dorothy with her magical ruby slippers – the power was in me the whole time!

People think they’re being helpful when they post BPAs, but they’re not. Those of us who have had life intrude on our well planned path understand that these clichés are not helpful, and only serve to make the reader feel negative when they read it. The notion that you can think your way to success is foolish and doesn’t benefit anyone.

It seems like people who share BPAs are looking for an easy answer to the tangled reality of life. The problem is that hoary bromides don’t straighten out tangles or cure diseases.

It’s not to say that you shouldn’t try to be positive nor have happy thoughts. But, I’d prefer my positive affirmations to be less filled with bullshit and a little more realistic. I prefer my affirmations to be things we can all actually do.

 

BPA 7

 

Manners – it could become a cause of the day and go viral like the ice bucket challenge. People would be posting videos of themselves waiting patiently in line to say please and thank you to supermarket workers and food servers or being polite to random strangers on the street. The cool thing is that you wouldn’t have to pledge a damn dime, and it would bring a wealth of benefits for society. Although it would involve a greater effort than hitting the share button for a useless platitude, it could work.

How about:

 

BPA 11

 

Or:

 

BPA 13

 

Or, even simply:

 

BPA 15

 

It could happen.

All I’m saying is that if we’re going to encourage ourselves to do better lets aim for things we can actually do that make our little corner of the world a better place.

Let’s avoid the BPAs. They’re worthless and may serve to just make someone feel worse.

I have to admit there is one positive thing I don’t mind sharing. It’s something I really believe in, a cause close to my heart, and it’s something that I would really encourage everyone to do.

It doesn’t cost a penny, and doesn’t ask you to do anything unethical or immoral. It’s something that can be practiced without show in both public and the privacy of your own home.

It is, in fact the antithesis of a Bullshit Positive Affirmation:

 

BPA 9

 

Now, that’s something I can really get behind.

 

**Originally published Jan 5, 2015 – Republished Jan 3, 2018, with minor edits**

Milking The Cash Cow

42 years ago today we started production on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and I began playing a character named Heather – a job that changed my life in wonderful and tragic ways.

People are finally accepting that too many child performers are exploited. I hope my story can shed some light into just a few of the many ways we are taken advantage of.

By 1975 I was a cash cow for my folks – I was eleven, and had been in the business since I was three. I held my SAG & AFTRA Union cards from the age of five and seven, respectively. I’d done nearly 60 commercials and a few television feature spots, I’d booked dozens of print jobs and voice over gigs, and was the face of a Mattel toy – not a very popular toy, but, still…

I came to be part of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman at the last possible minute. I went on the interview Wednesday after school, got the call back and job the next evening, and on Friday morning I was sitting dazedly at the first table read. In 43 hours my life turned on a dime.

 

Origninal Cast Call & Photo Shoot

 

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was the brainchild of television legend Norman Lear, his grand statement on how American Consumerism isolates and leaves us unfulfilled, presented as a satire of a soap opera. Sort of. It was his poke in the eye to censors, conventions and Pearl Clutchers.

In a year and a half we shot 325 episodes. MH2 was a 5-day-a-week affair that had a cult following that goes on today. It was the first television show that proved you didn’t need a network to succeed or a laugh-track to be funny. It also introduced multiple positive LGBTQ characters to television at a time when Harvey Milk had not yet been elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. It is not overstating to call it ground breaking.

The list of exceptional performers who appeared on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a who’s who of funny and talented people from the 70s: Louise Lasser, Mary Kay Place, Martin Mull, Fred Willard, Dabney Coleman, Doris Roberts, Dody Goodman, Graham Jarvis, Greg Mullavey, Salome Jens, Norm Alden, Reva Rose, Sparky Marcus, Marian Mercer, Gloria Dehaven, Orson Bean, Ed Begley, Jr., Howard Hessman, David Suskind and Gore Vidal, just to name a few. It was just that cool at the height of its popularity.

The reason why even I got the interview to end up in such rarefied air was because my mom had blown up at my agent, Iris Burton, for not getting me any good interviews.

Mind you: I had just landed five commercials in six months – including the fountain-of-residuals Nestle $100,000 Bar spot – but my mother demanded more from my agent.  She wanted better interviews and she demanded readings for movies and television series. There were shouted threats of moving the gusher-of-money that I was to different representation.

A few days after their angry conversation I got the interview for Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman – and it was nothing less than a grudge interview. My agent had submitted me for the role of a 13-year-old, busty, frizzy haired girl with bad skin. I was 11, and skinny as a rail with no figure at all. I had long braids and glasses and silky smooth skin. Iris had secured an interview for a role I simply didn’t fit, and she was showing my mother not to mess with her or question her judgment.

 

$100,000 Bar

 

When we got there it looked like a cattle call (which is probably why I got the interview), and I was given what was called a ‘side’ to study. A side is a mini scene for audition purposes, usually 2 or 3 pages long. (These days it also refers to the pages of a movie script that will be shot on any given day of a shoot) This side was a piece where the mother (Mary) is trying to talk to the daughter (Heather) about sex, and the daughter manipulates her mother by redirecting the conversation to make it seem as if she’s virginally pure, which relieves the mother to no end.

I read the side to myself, and then read through it with my mom, ignoring her coaching. I sat on the floor in the too-warm hall waiting for my interview, as the actual waiting room was overflowing with girls who looked nothing like me.

There was nothing special at all about this interview, it was one of fifteen or twenty I went on every month. My time was never my own – it was more an all-consuming continuum of school, auditions and work.

When I was finally called in to the interview I turned ‘on’ like a light switch. I knew how to look the casting director in the eye, say hello with a smile and hand my litho forward, with my name at the bottom. I had literally done this 1,000 times before.

 

CCF08072013_00011

 

The casting director introduced herself as Jane, and the Director as Joan. There were other people to whom I was not introduced, and who watched silently as I read the scene with Joan. Joan nodded when we got to the end of the scene, and asked me to do it again – this time miming the orange juice I was supposed to be getting out of the refrigerator. We did the scene a second time, and I a saw the a ghost of a smile from Joan.

Jane asked if I had any other auditions that afternoon, or if I could stay to watch the two pilot episodes of the show. My mother was retrieved from the waiting room and taken to a writer’s office. She was the first and only parent I saw that afternoon to do the walk of ‘My Kid Is Better Than Yours’ through a sea of angry parents and dejected children. I’m sure she was graceless.

We two sat on a couch in a cold office looking up at a monitor on a large metal rolling stand. The screen flickered to life and the episode began as a nearly sepia-toned video of  kick-knacks on a table came into focus, and with it the swelling of over-dramatic music saturated with high-pitched violins. Out of nowhere a voice screeches, “Mary Hartman! Mary Hartman!!” so shrilly and gratingly I physically winced. Then came a gush of overwrought music heavy on the strings, parodying the soundtrack of really bad soap operas.

It is a distinctive open. Oh, so distinctive. I was tormented in High School with people shrieking it at me as I passed them in the hall. I’ve had grown-ups shout it in my face at parties as if I’ve never heard it before. I’ll bet you I’ve heard, “Mary Hartman! Mary Hartman!!” ten thousand times in my life if I’ve heard it once. But, I get ahead of myself.

Torture yourself here with this link, if you must.

Mary Hartman Opening

 

As I watched the pilots I clearly remember not understanding all the jokes. The episodes were strange and my mother didn’t know what to make of it, either. The lack of a laugh track threw her off, and I remember her saying later she didn’t know if she was supposed to be laughing at things or not.

It was late when I read for the folks in the room a third time, and they thanked me as I left. We drove home in the dark, and – exhausted – I didn’t get my homework done again.

The next day after school I was in my bedroom, sitting on my bed unsuccessfully trying to figure out what my algebra book was saying. It had been a bad day. 10-Week Grades had come out and mine weren’t the best from never having time to do my homework. I was struggling mightily in math and had gotten a D, and my mother’s answer was to verbally and physically abuse me. I was  grounded (as if I ever had time to go anywhere), and sent to my room to magically figure out integers and angles I couldn’t decipher before.

Suddenly, my mother burst into the room making the door crash against the wall. She never knocked once the entire time I lived in that house – and I was not allowed to ever fully close my door at that point. Crashing doors usually meant more verbal abuse or hitting, and I cringed, throwing my hands up around my head to protect myself from the expected blows. But instead of being wild eyed mad, she was wild eyed excited. Rather than getting mad at me for protecting my head, she laughed it off and said, “Get dressed! You’re late for a callback! They want to see you back from yesterday, but they forgot to call Iris. Hurry!! We should be there now. Where are your clothes?”

She was no longer hurling invectives, telling me how stupid and worthless I was. She seemed to have forgotten the head blows she had delivered minutes before, and was telling me to get ready.

My clothes from the day before had been stuffed into my laundry bag, and they were wrinkled. Manically, she threw them in the drier to tumble out the wrinkles, and brushed and braided my hair, while having me hold a cold compress to my face to erase the swelling and redness from my sobbing.

“C’mon – you’re not really going to go in there looking like that! Where’s your apple pie smile? Smile like you mean it – smile with your EYES!!” she encouraged/threatened.

She was so focused on getting me to look exactly as I had the day before and rushing out the door, that she didn’t run a comb through her hair or change out of the dirty black slacks and grubby sweater she had on – a point that would torment her to the end. Before I knew it we were out on the road in the middle of rush hour traffic, heading over the hill on the Hollywood Freeway.

We’re trapped in the car with maybe an hour until we got there, and my mom is vibrating she was so excited, drilling me on how to do it her way. It was a complete 180 from half an hour before, and as I rode in the car I was on an emotional roller coaster. I was still feeling shitty from how my mother screamed at me and hit me, plus the bad math grade I had to deal with. Add to that the need to psyche myself up for an important read  that I was very late for, and my mother was trying to force me to do her way. But beyond all that detritus and noise, there was euphoria about getting a callback for a Norman Lear series.

When we finally arrived we were waved on to the lot to park and I was rushed into Norman Lear’s office where he, Louise Lasser, Director Joan Darling, producer Al Burton, and writer Gail Parent were waiting. I made eye contact and gave them my apple pie smile, pretending my head didn’t hurt where my mother had been punching it 90 minutes ago.

I read the same side as I’d read the day before, only this time instead of reading with the Director I was reading it with Louise Lasser. Suddenly the scene was done, and they told me ‘Thank you, you can go’.

Thank you, you can go? But – we’d only read it once. How could it be ‘Thank you, you can go’?!

In less than 5 minutes I was in and out, and I found myself heading toward the elevator in dismayed shock, not understanding how I had failed so completely and astoundingly fast when it felt like a good read. I knew it was going to be a long, ugly ride home.

We were getting on the elevator in silence when Al Burton called my name down the hall. When I heard the smile in his voice I knew I had the job. My heart hit my feet as I stuck my hand out to stop the heavy elevator doors.

Al caught up to us and said they all really liked the way I read the part, and then he asked if I wanted to join the cast. “The job yours if you want it,” he said, smiling and looking me in the eyes like I mattered.

That moment was awesome in the truest definition of the word. I was validated for all the times I wasn’t chosen, and felt special because this time I was the best. It felt like winning. It was a very long time before I had another feeling that good.

I remember gasping and jumping up and down. I remember saying, “Yes!!” and bear hugging Al, and then hugging my mom as she beamed and rocked me back and forth in that elevator.

I remember being happy – happy in a way you can only be when you’re too young to have the filter that adults have, the filter that stops you from showing what you really think.

I don’t think that there was ever a time my mother was more proud of me than that evening in the hallway outside Norman Lear’s office.

 

Mary Hartman Letterhead 2

 

That moment in the elevator outside Norman Lear’s office changed my life completely. One day I was attending Junior High school in the most polluted part of the San Fernando Valley, and the next I was at a long table on Stage 5 at KTLA studio meeting my cast mates and production people.

We were given our scripts for episodes 3, 4 and 5 and did the first, last, and only table read we ever did for the show. There was never time after that initial day for the luxury of such a thing. There was a lady there who took care of timing out the scenes and continuity named Susan Harris who had the patience of Job with me. I was absolutely fascinated by the cigar box full of gum and mints (wow! Tic Tacs!) that she kept with her at all times. I must have looked like a chipmunk with all the gum I shoved in my mouth that morning. She was kind to an antsy, nervous kid.

I was bored stiff by the time we were done reading the 3 scripts. Somehow something as simple as reading words printed on paper turned into a thing. It felt like everyone was making a bigger deal out of it than it needed to be. I know now that everyone was staking out their territory, planting flags and trying to establish a pecking order. It was grueling, and finally it ended.

We all went down to Stage 5 where a luncheon was held for the cast and the production people. It was catered by Chasen’s – a perennial favorite of Norman Lear. There were place cards, and all of us had goody bags on our plates. They were a bunch of kitschy things. My bag had a draw string and was sewn to look like a pineapple. It had a plastic charm, 4 tickets to the children’s show Sheriff John which were 5 years old, a pack of stale gum, some ribbons, an Oscar Meier Wiener whistle and some other junk. Everyone else had similar stuff. Although I didn’t fully grasp it at the time, it seemed to signify the budget we were working under.

I watched as the adults who seemed familiar with each other laugh too loud at inside jokes, and I tried too hard to be part of group. I saw Louise again, and spoke for a while with Greg Mullavey, the man who would play my ever-adolescent father. I met my meddling grandparents, Dody Goodman who was charming and welcoming, and Phil Bruns who was grumpy and had the sour smell of an alcoholic. Debra Lee Scott played my oversexed Aunt and seemed to be the social butterfly. I barely spoke with a quiet Victor Killian, who played my great-grandfather, the infamous Fernwood Flasher. I was delighted by Mary Kay Place and Graham Jarvis who played the neighbors – an unlikely crazy-in-love couple where she was a smoking hot aspiring country-singer and him a balding middle-aged man who would give you the shirt off his back – they were both down to earth people. In fact, they were all as kind as they were capable of being to the stranger they’d just met, a child hired play a smart-assed, angst ridden teen who was wiser than her years and called out the adults for inconsistencies and hypocrisies. I may have been my family’s Cash Cow and had a giant weight on my shoulders, but I was still just a kid they’d just met – and I’m sure they were more focused on how to make this show that was so different than anything else on television work. They knew we only had 10 days to get ready for the grind of memorizing, rehearsing, blocking and filming 125-150 pages of dialogue PER WEEK.

It never occurred to me that Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was going to be anything other than a smash hit.

After lunch we were prodded by a strange doctor so that insurance could be taken out on the production. We all got into our wardrobe, and went to hair and make-up for our cast publicity shots. My wardrobe consisted of the same pants, shirt, belt, bracelet, braids, barrettes and glasses I sported on the audition and callback. (I can actually say I created Heather from the ground up) The photo we took that afternoon is iconic – and a giant blow-up of it sits behind Norman’s desk, a profound tribute given the sheer number of shows he has produced.

 

Cast Picture

 

 

My new-found station in life brought with it a well deserved bonus -a little something something – some frosting on the cake, if you will.

For signing a contract on a daily AFTRA television series my parents saw their way to giving me the princely sum $5 and dinner at Diamond Jim’s.

That’s right. I got a Fin and a Steak for landing a Whale.

Moo

The break down was $1 for a print job, $2 per commercial ($1 extra if they make 2 spots out if it), and $5 (American!) for a series. A series. I didn’t get a regular $2 a week allowance until I was 12-years-old and I was making $750 a week. I’ll do the math for you: that’s me getting just under $9 allowance in today’s dollars on a weekly paycheck of $3,350.

The Cash Cow was getting milked raw.

Double Moo

I remember feeling so grown up and proud the night we went to Diamond Jim’s, a past its prime cocktails-and-red-meat establishment on Hollywood Boulevard. As we were led to a high-backed leather booth, I boasted to the server that I’d gotten a series, and he kindly kept my Shirley Temple filled all night (extra maraschino cherries, please!). I’m sure my parents thought “Great! Now we have to tip.”

I wanted this to be a grand evening, but, the place was stuffy and filled with smoke, and didn’t have any food for children – it was a disappointment after the build up. The truth was that this was a restaurant for my parents, not a place for me. I was just tagging along on their celebratory dinner because I was footing the bill.

My whole family should have gone to Shakey’s or Piece O’ Pizza, followed by a trip to Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor for a Zoo. Instead, my parents isolated me from my brothers and created resentment where none ever needed to exist.

Beyond the Politics of Envy, I ask you – Which was more insulting? A $5 payoff for landing a union gig, (Oh, irony! Thy name is Unionized Child Labor!) or the 3 of us celebrating the impending plunder of my hard-earned money?

Assholes.

That night I felt like I was a successful grown up, and in a way I was. I may have only been 11, but I had a 26 week guaranteed Union contract as a regular on a series. With that contract and my commercial residuals I would earn more than double in 6 months than my father would ever make in a single year in his whole life. He topped out in 1985 at $33,500. You bet your ass I was grown up.

My parents stole almost every penny I ever made as a child. Had it not been for the paper-tiger Coogan Law, I’d have lost everything that I would earn over the next 2 ½ years of working for Norman Lear. This larceny was unchecked by the State. Hell, it was APPROVED of by the court, who left me with the paltry sum of $20,000 when I turned 18. A sum that was further chipped away by the $2,000 delinquent tax bill I received as an Eighteenth birthday present.

How much did they steal? There is no way to estimate the true figure, because they claimed I made different sums to the IRS, the Courts, both Unions and ME.

Also? (And this is VERY important) Commercials were not covered by the Coogan Law. Parents of someone like me, who made between $175-$200K (today’s dollars) between the ages of 3 and 11, weren’t required to ensure that the money went to the person who earned it.

How comforting to know that my parents were equal opportunity thieves who ran a racket and a half, and managed to get away with it.

Funny thing was, they lied to the Unions less than they lied to the IRS. I guess they were more afraid of running afoul of SAG and AFTRA, but not too afraid to have me do an appalling number of non-Union jobs that were never declared to anyone but my mother’s secret bank account and my father’s bookie.

Let’s look at some of the numbers, and I’ll run the abacus. Have some Pepto Bismol and a barf bag ready.

Here’s what my parents told the IRS I’d made by age 11:

 

IRS Earnings to 1975

 

That’s $28,324 they claimed I’d earned by the age of 11.

Indexed, I’d earned $159,966.31 in today’s dollars by 1975. (I used handy this inflation calculator provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

By 7th grade, and before getting booked on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, I’d made more than a sixth-of-a-million dollars in cold hard cash. According to the IRS.

Let that sink in for a moment. $160K Cash. Not invested, nor saved and earning interest.

This is a snapshot of my SAG earnings up to 1975 – note how it matches to the dollar with my IRS earnings report.

 

SAG Earnings to 1975

 

Looks good. A $2.92 discrepancy over eight years is absolutely acceptable.

But, wait! What’s this? Looks Like Ma and Pa Lamb were lying about my earnings to the IRS from my very first job. They claimed I’d done no work until 1968 – but here are my first ads from 1967, and my photo and credits from 1968 listing 2 big shoots here I don’t have the proofs for. I wonder where that money went?

 

 

 

They never claimed to the IRS any of of the multiple calendars, print ads or voice-over work I did before I had to join Screen Actors Guild in 1968, when I made $156 on my first union commercial – a long lost spot for Alpha Beta Supermarkets.

My parents pretended I did no work and earned not one dollar in 1969, despite the continuing print work, and me having been the face of Ford’s Tot Guard (their first child safety seat) and doing a non-union Gain Detergent commercial that played so much during the daily soaps I was recognized for the first time while in the grocery store.

Under-declaring my earnings? It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for them.

Looky there – it did. Because, in 1970, when I had to join the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists at the age of six, they were so far on the take they never reported any of my AFTRA earning to the IRS through 1975:

 

AFTRA Earnings to 1975

 

That’s $2,368 worth of work they didn’t declare to the IRS – that they claimed and paid dues on with AFTRA – is worth 11,404.74 in today’s cash.

I will never know how much I really earned by the time I’d gotten on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. A conservative guess would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 250,000 of today’s dollars. That was a metric shitload of cash and my parents did their very best to make it disappear.

By the time I started MH2 in November of 1975 my folks were in full swing, and had theft down to a science. Penn and Teller couldn’t make greenbacks disappear as well as Herb and Margaret could.

Everybody got a different story.

 

 

In 1976 my parents declared to the IRS that I made $15,300. Asking the IRS to believe I’d made less than $300 per week as a main cast member on a screaming hot television show was ballsy – and they were up to the challenge.

In 1976 I spent the full year employed under an AFTRA contract at a $750 weekly guarantee, and there were summer residuals and voice over promos for the show. The parents declared to this union I’d made $22, 775.

I was getting SAG residuals for the 5 commercials I’d shot the year before – including the aforementioned $100,00 Bar (Link) spot that was gushering $1,500 dollars a month, as Nestle wrapped Type-2 Diabetes in a pull of melted caramel and a catchy jingle a dozen times an afternoon on every cartoon show. My parents told Screen Actors Guild I made $32,442.36.

The mind boggling shell game went on until the show ended in 1978.

I made a few useful charts to outline the thievery. ‘Index’ indicates what that money would be worth in 2017 dollars. Remember, this is earned income – not what it could have been had it been invested with a reputable money manager.

 

Table 1 68-75

 

You have to admit they had game when it came to stealing money from innocent children. By the time the real money was rolling in they had more hiding places than a pack-rat.

Table 2 76-79 (2)

We were living large in the poor part of the San Fernando Valley in a house built in 1947 inherited from my father’s maiden Aunts, rolling The 101 in my mom’s 1974 Chevy Monza. Step back, bitches!

I can only imagine what that fortune would have been had they done the right thing – but that wasn’t an issue and what ever figures you see here are fake. There are no records for the dozens and dozens of non-union, off-the-books jobs that disappeared into my mother’s pocket  without my father ever seeing a penny he could piss away at the poker table.

 

Table 3 Totals

 

By rights I should have been a wealthy young woman when I tuned 18. It seems that for a lifetime of work and foregoing my childhood I should have had more to show for it than $1,000 a year.

Perhaps I’d have blown it had I gotten all of my money, but I doubt it very much. I never even tried cocaine, even as it sucked in so many of my contemporaries I was horrified. I SAW what coke did for loved-ones, co-stars, and roommates. If ANYONE says they’ve EVER seen me do a line of coke they’re lying, and I’ll take a polygraph test to prove it.

Among other things, that remaining $18,000 from my childhood paid for tuition for 3 years of college. Although I did have a full-time job at The Palace in Hollywood to pay rent. Yes – I moved out at 18 – what did you expect?

My Coogan account – such as it was – also allowed me to move to Colorado in 1984, at the ripe old age of 20. For so many reasons I needed to leave. I took $1,000 (just under $2,400 today), and set out towards a place with mountains and skiing where my parents couldn’t visit me unless they called first. I brought the idea of moving up to them, but I distinctly remember my mother losing her shit over me ‘moving to a jerkwater town with no future.’ God she was supportive. What did I expect? I was offered a full ride for 2 years at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado and she acted like I wanted to join a cannibal cult.

Picture this – It’s 7 am on the first Saturday in June, 1984. *Knock Knock* “Mom, Dad – don’t get out of bed. I’m moving to Colorado. No – really. Don’t get out of bed. My car is packed and I’m leaving. I’ll call when I get there.” I was out the door like my ass was on fire. Within 2 weeks of leaving LA I had a job that covered all my bills – I was teaching acting in Denver.

I also used the money to buy my first Subaru – a Brat that I adored and defined the new person I’d become when I left Los Angeles.

Finally, I used the remainder to put a down payment on my first home.

I remember my mother wistfully opining in the waning years of her life, as she lived like the Merry Widow and denied the single request for help I’d made as an adult at Christmas in 1999, “It’s a shame you wasted your money from Mary Hartman.”

There are times when I think back to that night at Diamond Jim’s… That night, THAT dinner meant something really special to my parents. It was the validation of all of their hard work at marketing their children and what they’d been working toward: One of their kids was good enough to land a national television series.

It meant a spigot of money like nothing they’d ever seen had just turned on. The family income tripled in one fortuitous afternoon. What’s not to celebrate? They were kicking up their heels.

At least that night I didn’t know my parents were stealing from me, and I thought the celebration was for *my* accomplishment. That was one small mercy the universe extended to me.

 

 

On November 18th, 1975, Joan Darling handed us all a small blue box before rehearsal. From the gasps of the folks around me I knew it was something special. I untied the thick white ribbon. Greedily I opened the tiny box to find a felt bag emblazoned ‘Tiffany & Co.’ Inside was a key fob with a charm that said ‘MH, MH’ on the front and ’11-18-75′ on the back, the date when we all set to work to make the best goddamn television show in the history of ever.

My parents stole an unconscionable seven-figures from me without the bat of an eye – and stole my childhood as well, and there is no way to forgive that. None. People keep cheering on children in show business with no oversight.

I will always be grateful that I was so terrifically lucky that my bondage was in the company of greats – I know not every child actor gets that. I learned comedy at their feet. I know that the IBM Selectric typewriter Norman Lear made sure arrived in my schoolroom has meant all the difference in the world to me.

In the end, all I was paid for 15 years of hard labor amounted to a Venti Latte a day – no extra pulls.

Strangers To My Face, But Not To My Heart

The only thing worse than getting in The Wayback Machine is finding out I’m not well enough to get into it.

The dreaded day is here – my skin is no longer repairing itself, and after a 6 day break from blasting my body with UVB radiation, I was still red on Tuesday – my first treatment of the week. We cut the treatment in half on Wednesday because I was more burned than I have ever been. But by Thursday morning I could see there was no way I could possibly get into The Wayback Machine and I cancelled my appointment for the first time ever.

The treatments that keep my skin from eating me alive are not possible until my skin heals itself, which it is not doing right now. I am actually more sunburned today than I was yesterday and I haven’t been in The Wayback Machine for 2 days. I can feel the rash breaking through and the itching is ratcheting up.

So, I’m in time out and the waiting is killing me.

I have no idea what will happen to my skin – whether it go crazy or give me a break. Life hasn’t been big on breaks, lately, so I’ll prepare for the worst.

Besides the ceaseless rash, the latest thing is when various parts of me stop doing what they’re supposed to do without warning. My knees will stop kneeing and I’ll sink to the ground unexpectedly, or my hands will stop handing and I drop what I am holding or find that I cannot type. I also get stabbing pains – neuropathy – anywhere. Feet, stomach, back, hands, legs, you name it.

I have continual fatigue. Short term memory problems.  Lots of vomiting for no reason. Screeching sounds in my ears. Short term memory problems. Vertigo and dizziness. Most days I am not well enough to take the pain meds. Or, I do take them (like this morning) and just wait until they make me retch. Oh – and short term memory problems.

It is strange to be held hostage by an angry body.

Cigna’s latest gambit (instead of sending me to the Mayo Clinic) is to ask if I’ve tried Vitamin A instead of The Wayback Machine, which they still refuse to pay for and I pay for every treatment out of pocket. Yes – fucking really. Vitamin A for this Dog’s Breakfast of an illness. Those fuckers. In a moment of weakness I almost wanted to wish this illness on them – but there isn’t one person in the world I would wish this on. Yes – fucking really. I don’t wish this hellacious illness on one person in the whole damn world. Although I admit to the occasional evil thought towards the people who are actively trying to kill folks like me by taking away our insurance.

I think the toughest thing about being ill for years is realizing people you thought were friends aren’t. Sometime in the last year I realized I had curated a list of friends who often needed my help and were unwilling or incapable of being there for me when I need them the most.

A friend of 35 years used the excuse of me snarking about her husband proselytizing on my FB wall on my birthday to drop our friendship. Really? I have been a proud atheist for decades and she was an agnostic, until she married an Episcopalian Priest 3 years ago. You know – the friend who stood for me at my wedding and sent a text message for me to attend her reception. I’m sure she would have been TOTALLY okay with me posting on his wall, “Happy Birthday – there is no god or heaven – it’s all a hoax – so make every day here count.”

I called her to tell her about the tumor in my breast but instead of taking my call she sent an email excoriating me for not being more gracious about the unwanted and insulting proselytizing on my wall. He wasn’t even wishing me to get well, just simply a blessed birthday.

 

April Excuse (3)

 

Yeah – then, there’s this…

I know you’re dying, What The Fuck can I do about it?

This is from a woman I used to walk to school with and have known since 1976.

This nugget makes it easy to forgive the friends who have ghosted me because they can’t take watching me die or live in the long hallway of pain. I’m ashamed to admit that in the past I had friends who were sick and I didn’t know what to say, and avoided them. All I can offer is that it’s better to call and not know what to say than to let the people you care about think they aren’t of value and no-one will miss them when they’re gone.

But this? This takes the cake for breathtakingly unaware cruelty.

Unbelievably, this person reached out last week to – seriously – oh, hell… She puts it so much more eloquently than me.

April Excuse (3)_LI

 

What she doesn’t understand is I have no fucks left to give. Nothing. I don’t even have the energy to be angry – I just simply don’t care about her drama anymore. I have no curiosity as to why I was rebuked for dying.

I didn’t answer her, and somehow that silence seems deafening. I don’t mean it to be. I. Just. Don’t. Care.

But, then I get support from the places I least expect it. New friends on the internet who care and ask how I am, and offer the shoulder I seek: Strangers to my face, but not to my heart. A dear friend now is there for me on dark days – when in high school we were not the kindest of souls to one another. The Pharmacist who remembers my name and takes 10 minutes to listen to my stories. The grown daughter of a dear friend who I love as my own – I couldn’t be more proud of the Woman she is, and I thrill at the knowledge that she will shine brighter than I could have ever imagined for myself.

I don’t want to die this way, in fact I don’t want to be sick. Sometimes I don’t think I can take another minute of the agony of my meat casing, and can’t remember what it’s like not to hurt.

But, then I find Love and Joy in the oddest places, and I find meaning in writing and Resisting.

Do me a favor, huh? Love freely. Take that trip. Tip an extra dollar. Be kind to people. Add to the good in the world. Our time here is so brief – don’t you dare waste a moment.

10 Absolutes About Abusers

Those of us who’ve escaped the orbit of a Narcissistic Psychopath are fully aware of how Trump & Company are bludgeoning America into submission with relentless lies and sadistic behavior. We’re all too familiar with watching helplessly as our abuser breaks everything we hold dear just for the fun of it, and then lies to our face about what our eyes can see.

If you’ve never been trapped by a Narcissistic Psychopath you are in very real shock right now at finding a person utterly lacking in compassion or empathy is controlling your life and means you very real harm. The continual Gaslighting and threats to your safety become a steady feedback loop of anxiety, and the sustained emotional assault actually causes physical and mental harm.

Understand that this ceaseless firehose of bald-faced lies and indignities is designed to overwhelm and humiliate, and ultimately to make us all passive by cutting so deep into our soul we beg for the pain to stop, even though we know there is no mercy.

Those of who have walked down this path owe it to those who have not to take their arm and assure them as we walk through the darkness they are not alone, nor are they crazy.

To wit, I offer these irrefutable Truths About Abusers – especially Trump and Company:

  1. You aren’t human – you’re expendable chattel without rights
  2. Your opinion, wants are needs are punishable offenses
  3. You are expected to follow rules and display manners that they deny exist
  4. You will NEVER get them to acknowledge facts
  5. They will never, ever, EVER admit they are wrong
  6. They will steal from you while insisting you’re a duplicitous thief
  7. They will lie so boldly and confidently that you will question your sanity
  8. They enjoy your pain even more when you tell them how much it hurts
  9. They will not stop until they control you completely and capriciously
  10. Anything they can’t control completely they will ceaselessly try to destroy

Now repeat these truths until they are so ingrained they can’t be shouted away.

Trump and his acolytes are soulless entities who will suck every ounce of you out of you if they can, and eventually being around them becomes a fight to keep your sanity and your personality from being swallowed by inexhaustible evil.

The urge is to give up and give in by not looking around to see about how bad things really are. It may be easier in the short term for some to ignore the reality in our collective Home – but you can’t wish away the Authoritarian that lounges insolently in our Parlor any more than you can reason with the termites and rot that infest the walls.

No matter what we do – compliance or fight – understand that there is no depth which Trump and Company won’t plumb, there will be no savagery left undone, no barbarity overlooked, and no opportunity to inflict sadistic inhumanity will be missed.

Accept that none of us will come out the other side of this fight the same, nor is it our fault that Trump and Company are evil. These facts exist together and separately, and all we can do is try to mitigate the damage.

I will do the very best I can to give voice to our #Resistance. I am here.

Embrace the reality that Trump and Company are relentlessly evil and will continue to screw with our heads and our very lives until we are compliant and submit to watching our country slide back 100 years – or until we’ve had enough and fight back like we mean it.

RNC Trump Flags

Preaching To The Choir

It’s best if we accept the reality that Trump speaks to the vacuum of compassion in his followers. All their life Trump Apologists (Trumpologists) have known on an instinctive level that they lack something most other people have, but can’t quite grasp what it is.

Trump is their Jack from Lord Of The Flies because he validates Trumpologists lack of empathy and need to destroy things and take pleasure in other’s pain – they grunt and nod as Trump eschews the Conch and the Rules of Law and Decency.

The sooner we accept this the sooner we will be able to break free from the notion these folks can be reasoned with.

They don’t WANT to be reasoned with, they don’t want a middle ground – they don’t want to live peacefully.

What they want is for you to abase yourself to their God, and mouth their beliefs and surrender your Civil Rights to their religion.

They want to control your life and be in charge of who you can marry and where you can live and when you will have babies – and even WHEN YOU WILL DIE.

To that end I offer my Brothers and ReSisters a basic template of how to respond to ANYONE ignorant enough to insist Donald J. Trump is a good President.

You won’t change a Trumplogst’s mind, but you will help other Resisters who read it to shake off the continual gaslighting from the Administration and Russia (but, I repeat myself), and the numbness from the never-ending fire-hose of terrifying and infuriating news.

Think of the following paragraphs as Colorform Facts that you can mix and match for the Trumpologists in your life. Use them all – or use just one.

Copy, paste, share, and use in good health. It will always be here when you need it. Most people don’t have the time to put together and fact check a list like this that has taken me 2 ½ years to curate.

So, Sing It Loud! Sing It Proud! Raise up your voice and speak the TRUTH my Brothers and ReSisters!

Sure, I’m preaching to the choir, but it’s so damned EASY to forget what we’ve been through – and sometimes the Choir needs practice:

 

Journalists should be jailed and or killed. Mexicans are rapists & Blacks are lazy. POWs aren’t heroes because they got caught & US soldiers with PTSD aren’t strong. A woman questioning him has to be on the rag. Syrians should be put in concentration camps, and deported. Muslims should have to register and wear ID tags and mosques should be closed.

Trump cruelly derided the grieving parents of a Gold Star soldier, while himself taking 5 deferments from Vietnam. When asked which foot had the bone spur that allowed him a medical deferment after playing 4 years on the college tennis team Trump told the reporter, “You look it up.”

During a campaign rally Trump viciously mocked Serge Kovaleski, a physically disabled New York Times reporter, who pointed out that Trump was pretending to have personally witnessed the thoroughly debunked urban legend that thousands upon thousands of Muslims were cheering in New Jersey on September 11, 2001.

Donald Trump incites violence at his rallies and believes protesters deserve to get beaten up by wistfully pining for “the old days when they’d be carried out on stretchers.” Encouraging violence, he promised to pay the legal bills of anyone assaulting a protestor in the crowd.

Before declaring his candidacy Trump faced more than 4,000 lawsuits on everything from fraud to unpaid bills, contract disputes and sexual discrimination.

Trump has been found guilty and fined twice for violating the Federal Fair Housing Act, due to his management company’s egregious policy of racial discrimination against African Americans.

He was forced to pay a $200,000 fine to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission for denying blacks casino floor jobs and forcing black employees to be removed from sight when Donald and Ivana visited.

He made fraud, racketeering and elder abuse charges vanish from his bogus Trump University by paying off tens of thousands of plaintiffs, whom he defrauded to the tune of $50 million.

He has contributed no money to charity – None. His Foundation is not only uncertified, it is being investigated by the state of New York due to good-faith donations being misused. Paperwork shows nearly half-a-million dollars in charitable funds were used to pay Trump’s personal obligations of legal bills and fines on his for-profit business, including a $120,000 penalty from the city of Palm Beach for code violations by his prized Mar-a-Lago Club. Beyond that, Trump made an illegal political gift of $25,000 to Pam Bondi – the Florida Attorney General who conveniently decided not to press charges on Trump and his Trump University. He used $40,000 to buy oil paintings of himself and even paid his son’s $8 Boy Scout fees out of the charitable fund.

He lies when it’s easier to tell the truth, claiming to be the first person to predict terrorism in the United States.  Trump continues to flog the lie that his first wife competed as a skier in the 1972 Olympics for Czechoslovakia, even though it’s easily verifiable that the Czechs didn’t even field a team that year. A marker on the third green of his Virginia golf club boasts of the 100% pulled-out-of-his-ass ‘River of Blood’ Civil War imaginary battle – and Trump unironically goes so far as to say of the historians who vehemently deny any fight took place within miles of the course, “Where they there?”

He is a thin-skinned narcissist who rage-tweets about anyone who disagrees with him, going so far at one point as to encourage people to watch a non-existent sex tape of Alicia Machado, former Miss Universe from Venezuela, when she detailed his fat shaming of her.

A raging racist, he spent several years and thousands of dollars ‘investigating’ Barack Obama’s birth certificate, encouraging Birthers, and conveniently ignoring the fact that no matter where Obama was born in this great big wide world, his mother being an American citizen MADE HIM ONE, TOO – with all the accompanying privileges, like being President. Please note that John McCain was born in Panama and Trump didn’t say ‘Boo’ when McCain ran for President because he was a white dude.

 

Beyond all of this – NEVER forget this is a man who has promised state sponsored murder and torture of children, and who thinks the Press exercises entirely too much Freedom.

This self-imagined dictator promises to violate the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 14th amendments, as well as end abortion, civil rights, voting rights, marriage equality and the EPA.

He has proudly broken every Commandment Christians purport to hold dear, except murder – and he brags of being able to shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue without it costing him a single follower.

He is working in cahoots with Putin – and no matter how they try to deny it – Trump is ON TAPE begging straight into the camera for Russia to hack Clinton’s emails, which they did.
A ‘Good President’ wouldn’t sentence thousands of children to death, and let 9 million more lose their insurance coverage – as happened at the end of September, when the CHIP bill was not reauthorized.

A ‘Good President’ wouldn’t let the Pre-existing Conditions clause die, or allow Health Insurance Companies to sell worthless policies, or refuse to tell it’s citizens about ACA policies with subsidies.

A ‘Good  President’ wouldn’t let the people of PR die of cholera and thirst. A ‘Good  President’ wouldn’t golf while the people of California are being burned alive and out of house and home.

A ‘Good President’ doesn’t spend 1 in 3 days at his own properties, exhausting the Secret Service budget in weeks that was meant to last a year.

A Good Man doesn’t make fun of POWs and soldiers who died for our country, or a Mayor who is pleading for the very lives of her constituents.

Oh yeah – A Good HUMAN would never, ever, ever “Grab Them By The Pussy!!”

 

 

 

 

 

How Have You Harassed Me? Let Me Count The Ways…

I was 9-years-old the first time I was sexually assaulted. It was a friendly neighborhood barber who felt me up on the pretense of seeing how much I weighed – he did this after leading me into in a back room whose walls were papered with hardcore porn. I shudder to think what might have happened had a customer not walked in just then and allowed me to escape, heart pounding and sure I had done something wrong.

CCF08072013_00103

I was mercilessly teased about my breasts throughout my teens by schoolmates, strangers and colleagues. I was absolutely scarred from years of cruel mocking about my tiny breasts which were as much a function of my build as they were my mother starving me so I would keep getting booked on print work.

“You’re a pirates dream! A sunken chest!” “Mark likes you. Mark C. Bloom (a So Cal tire store) likes all flats!” “Carpenters love you – you’re flat as a board!” “Hey moon-tan! Didja leave your tits at home?” “You’re part of the itty-bitty-titty club!!” And on and on and on. I’ve been handed band-aids to use as a bra and had men come up and feel my back because “I’m looking to see if your titties are coming out the back! The gotta be somewhere” Yes – it’s been a real laugh riot having men tell me my bewbs aren’t quite big enough to sooth their mommy issues.

A make-up man I thought quite highly of had a daily joke of looking down my shirt, seeing how flat I was and stuffing 2 tissues in to plump things up. The cast and crew thought that was high comedy.

It wasn’t all jokes about my breasts, though. In high school there was the English teacher who took to giving me shoulder rubs and trying to look down my blouse, small as my breasts were. I wasn’t special, though, he did that for all the white girls and I’d been warned. No young woman ever put herself alone with him willingly.

There was the douche-bag History teacher who refused to give me a higher grade than the captain of the basketball team – even though I’d gotten more answers correct on my tests. “It will never happen,” Mr. Vanderveer said huffily, looking down his nose, “I will *never* give a girl a higher grade than a boy.” Even my beloved music teacher wouldn’t let me try out for drum major – because I was a girl. Since I knew how to twirl a baton I was welcome to put on a skimpy leotard and be eye candy – but, no position of power for females was offered. I stuck with my sax, instead, preferring to be a mediocre musician to an object to be ogled.

CCF08072013_00108

No girls allowed in Pop Warner or Little League (unless it was a fantasy commercial) – but I could be a pom-pom girl if I wanted! No girls allowed to deliver papers or take shop classes. No girls allowed to serve the alter in Catholic mass – yeah… Scratch that. Talk about a blessing in disguise.

I was in the first group of girls allowed to play an instrument in the Los Angeles Police Department Junior Band. Previous to that the only way females could participate was if they were twirling flags and sashaying, while sporting white go-go boots. Meanwhile the guys were playing music and styling in sharp military-style uniforms. We gals sure were welcomed warmly in that here-to-fore all-male marching band and symphony orchestra paid for by the tax dollars of the citizens of Los Angeles. Wait – no we weren’t. We were hazed and resented for ‘forcing your way where you don’t belong’. Officer Horde actually laughed when I asked if he thought I might try out for Drum Major someday. I was beginning to see a pattern.

 

CCF08072013_00020

 

As a teen in the 70s I spent summers in New York City doing print and commercial work. I nearly changed my name to ‘Mira!!’ from all the men hollering it at me from every construction site I passed, them grabbing their flaccid penises and making disgusting sucking-kissy noises at the clearly under-age girl.

 

Serious Question: Has yelling, “I want you to suck my big cock” from a passing car ever worked for any man in the history of time? Do they think screaming ‘Show us your tits’ will actually reveal to them nipples and areolas? Of course the clear corollary to that fallacy is that SO many men think telling women they aren’t fuckable is some kind of kryptonite that will kill us. It’s beyond their scope that we aren’t all waiting breathlessly to have our bodies validated by a stranger’s desire to have sex with us.

 

I grew up in an era of unwilling Title IX accommodations, and outright hostility at those women who wanted equality or free agency. Men called feminists ‘bra burners’ and despised those who would exercise their right choose to terminate a pregnancy they could not or did not want to take to term. Men winked and nodded at each other over women’s heads about our so-called intelligence and proficiency, and while we insisted, “I’m RIGHT HERE” they nodded condescendingly and said, “Sure you are, Sugar Tits. Now, isn’t that cute?”

 

CCF08072013_00138

 

I was raped at age 16 by a person in a position of power – these are all the details I’m willing to share now, and it is still my story to tell someday. Suffice to say the highlight of the experience was after hearing the man would face no charges, I sought solace from a priest who looked me square in the eye and said, “You must search deeply and ask yourself, “What did I do to bring this upon myself?’ and then ask forgiveness from the Lord.”

What did *I* do to bring this upon myself? What did *I* do to encourage a man 25 years older than me to attack me when I was vulnerable and physically incapable of fighting back or even keeping him off of me? I’m not ashamed to admit that when I became an adult THAT mind fuck paid for a few therapists vacations.

Things became more difficult when I became an adult – and not just because of the rape. Suddenly, at the age of 18 I was expected to know how to navigate being legally objectified. When you’re jail-bait you’re subjected to endless leering. But, when you achieve the age of majority – even though you’re still very much a kid – predatory male behavior kicks in to high gear.

When I turned 18 I briefly had an agent and interviewed a would-be manager – both men at least 15 years older than me – who each tried to turn a professional relationship into a casting couch. The agent had a habit of creepily calling me at 8 am because, he said, he really liked hearing the sound of my voice when I woke up in the morning. The manager, over the course of a 2 hour interview tried to kiss me.

Let’s not forget a male actor I had worked with numerous times who didn’t recognize me when I was 18 and wearing a saucy red jumpsuit and big hair. I was going in to an interview and he was leaving one when I recognized him from 20 feet away, only to have him mistake my smile of recognition as a come on. I wanted to vomit at his leer, and when he realized who I was he tried to pretend he wasn’t checking my ass out.

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There was the predatory douche in the acting class at Cal State University Northridge with whom I was doing a Chekov piece who mauled me during rehearsal at his home, insisting we needed to spoon before doing the scene, and physically wrapped his arms around me against me will, forcing me to lie next to him on the couch, where I could feel his erection. I was numb and terrified.

Mr. Mauler missed the next class, hanging me out to dry on our scene presentation, screwing me on my grade. I spoke up in class about what had happened, and another female student looked incredulous and said it had happened to her, too – being held against her will, and then he didn’t show for the scene. We were the only 2 women he’d been paired with, and twice he’d physically overpowered his scene-mates into forced intimacy and blew off the performance. He was clearly using rehearsal time as assault time. The Professor’s reaction was to give us each a passing mark for our scenes, and him 2 goose eggs he was allowed to make up by doing scenes with a male actor. He wasn’t kicked out of class because… you know… It could really hurt his reputation if this made it into his permanent file.

 

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The real corker happened just before I left California, when I was managing the box office at The Hollywood Palace, just off of Hollywood and Vine and directly across from the Capitol Records building. The Palace was a high-end night club that held 1,800 people and featured all the best current and up-and-coming acts; it also had an exclusive restaurant and on the second floor a roof-top private club that people fought tooth and nail to get into, including Althea Flynt, the wife of Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt.

It was at The Palace that Larry Flynt’s weaselly assistant tried to coerce me and 2 other female co-workers to wear string bikinis and stiletto heels into a federal court to push wheel barrows full of pennies in to pay one of Flynt’s obscenity fines. I was offered the princely sum of $100 to leave my dignity at the door. Somehow I found the power to decline without alienating a client.

Later, when the Weasel found out I was a former child actor, nothing would do but he kept insisting I needed to do a spread-eagle signature Hustler pictorial. He thought he was complimenting me by mercilessly nagging me every time he saw me to do something I had not ever had a fleeting passing interest in. I was expected to be cordial to this tool who insisted on acting like he was my pimp, because Althea and her groupies brought in big bucks, prestige and probably coke.

There was a lot of coke at The Palace then. Hell, there was a lot of coke all over Los Angeles then. It was sucking in friends and family, and I’m grateful I held strong against trying it, much less using it. My manager at The Palace had a problem with coke and as his addiction progressed so did his inexcusable behavior.

I’d been there 2 years, and the abuse had ratcheted up slowly over the weeks and months. It began with cruelty, “Jesus, you’re an uptight little Catholic girl, aren’t you?”  and moved to unwanted dirty jokes. It wasn’t long until there were slaps on the ass and finally to him exposing himself on a regular basis. His favorite way to do it was to turn his pocket inside out and ask if I wanted to see a one-eared elephant, followed by pulling his semi-turgid penis out of his pants.

The job paid really well and was fabulously cool, it allowed me to sleep and attend class and take time off for any acting jobs I got. I learned to look away when he took his dick out, and to spend as little time alone with him as possible.

He began to frequently and fruitlessly demand sex from me “When are you gonna give it up?”  Then, he allowed the bar staff to have a semi-secret betting pool regarding which male employee would bed me first.

Knowing all this, I had to grit my teeth and be pleasant to his princess girlfriend who pretended to be oblivious to the way her boyfriend was literally swinging his dick around.

As his cocaine addiction progressed his anger became explosive, and his behavior unpredictable. The owners began to show up less frequently (their problem was alcohol, not coke) and Cocaine Manager became more erratic.

One busy Friday evening Cocaine Manager came in to the box office with a glaze in his eyes that let me know he had his load on. I had no patience for a coked-up, drunk boss, and when he made the elephant appear for the umpteenth time I opined that it was the shortest trunk I had ever seen.

His fury broke like a wave, and in a flash as he grabbed my right nipple, and squeezing as hard as he could he twisted my breast. I screamed and he let go, then I ran to the bathroom, locked the door and cried. That fucking psycho yelled through the door, “You watch your filthy fucking mouth, you hear?” before slamming the door on his way out.

At home in the wee hours I could see the angry bruise that was forming on my breast, and when the morning came I called the police about the assault. It was then I heard for first time in my life – but no-where near the last – how the police refused to get involved with a ‘He Said, She Said’ situation. I couldn’t believe my ears that yet again someone who had physically assaulted me would get away with it.

Refusing to let the matter go, I had my doctor document the bruise on my breast and nipple, and took the matter to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which was then being run by that superb sexual harasser, and current Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas. I filed my grievance and waited to for something in the mail to tell me what would happen next.

One evening a few weeks later, as I was preparing the will call and guest list for that night’s show, the door from the club into the box office blasted open, the knob hitting the wall so hard it left a hole where it bounced off. Cocaine Manager was standing in the doorway as angry as I have ever seen anyone in my life. He rushed forward and grabbed my arms and began to shake me like a rag doll. The EEOC had called the woman in Human Resources and she immediately told Cocaine Manager about my complaint. His answer was to physically assault me.

“You went to the GOVERNMENT about me you fucking bitch?!!!” he was screaming in my face as my head was being whipped around and his hands dug into the flesh on my arms. Suddenly my breasts were on fire as he was grabbing and squeezing them viciously. “You don’t want me to touch your tits?!! How’s this?!!”

He flung me by my arm into the wall, like a crack-the-whip.  Nearly incomprehensible with rage he shrieked, “GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY CLUB YOU FUCKING CUNT!!! GET THE FUCK OUT YOU’RE FIRED!!!!!”

As I scrambled out the door with my purse and coat he kicked me in the ass as hard as he could and I hit the wall in front of me.

The police STILL refused to get involved – He Said, She Said, and all that.

In the end the EEOC dropped the case because they couldn’t see that Cocaine Manager had done a single thing wrong. According to them, my going on a date with 2 different co-workers had given my supervisor carte blanche to demand sex from me. His physical assault and retaliation didn’t enter into it because I had no standing  to make a complaint to begin with.

It was shortly after that I left for Colorado at the age of 20.

Yes – ALL of this happened by the time I was 20.

When I started this list I figured I could crank out a few pages about the ways I’ve been harassed. I have already put down 2,500 words and I’ve only covered the stories I remember (right now) from the first 20 years of my life.

It’s sobering to realize just how many stories I have. But, even more sobering to know that nearly every woman in this country has their own stories to share. Yes, Stories – plural.

I’m going to keep telling my stories, because if we don’t tell them how the hell are men ever going to know what’s REALLY happening? We need them to stand up for us – and they need to understand how god-awfully pervasive it is.

I’ll keep telling my stories. Isn’t it time to tell yours and make your voice heard?